Intel's Barrett warns IT execs on brain drain

Intel's Barrett warns IT execs on brain drain

In a wide-ranging keynote at Gartner's IT Expo, Intel chief executive officer, Craig Barrett, cautioned the audience of corporate IT professionals that their companies risked falling behind global competitors if they didn't ramp up IT spending.

He also slammed the state of California's political system as "anti-business," blamed the American primary school education system for a shortage of computer scientists and warned of a continued migration of American IT jobs overseas.

Barrett said the current political crisis in California was the result of years of anti-business legislation.

The California-based chip-maker had more US employees outside California than it did in the state.

"We are diversifying out of California," he said.

When asked about future investments in California, Barrett replied, "It's very simple," emphatically shaking his head 'no'. "There's not much incentive at this time." While Barrett said he didn't expect Governor-elect, Arnold Schwarzenegger, to repeat those policies, he didn't say whether the change in leadership would affect Intel's view of the California business climate.

Barrett's assessment of public education was equally blunt.

"The K-12 system in the US does an excellent job of weeding out anyone who's interested in science," he said.

Barrett also criticised public education's seniority-based system.

"Meritocracy should rule, not seniority," he said.

Barrett also dismissed the idea that bringing more technology into schools would solve the problem.

"If technology was a solution to the education problem, we'd [already] be far ahead," he said.

The end result of the current educational system was a shortage of US talent and a situation where 50 per cent of all advanced degrees were awarded to foreign nationals, he said. US-funded colleges paid to educate them.

"And then we send them home and the jobs follow them," Barrett said.

To reverse the brain drain, Barrett said the US should "staple a green card to every diploma. [That] would do wonders for the US economy." While he said the ratio of domestic Intel employees has remained constant at 60 per cent during the past decade, increasing competition from US-trained IT professionals in Russia, China and India and the "dwindling number of IT graduates in the US" could change that.

"There is huge competition coming for jobs," he said.

Those three countries could produce between 250 million and 500 million knowledge workers.

Barrett said that while European and Asian companies continued to spend on IT, dthe U.S. enterprise market was "the weakest we see today". While Intel had seen "a bit of strength" in the market after two-and-a-half years of flat sales, US global competitiveness would suffer if enterprises waited much longer, Barrett said.

"The US is still the most powerful economy in the world," he said. "If you want to maintain that, you have to continue to invest. The world is the economic play space going forward."

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